Frigates and radars and lasers, oh my! In terms of naval systems, Lockheed Martin is, perhaps, best known for its Aegis integrated weapons system. It is now looking to integrate lasers to give the US Navy more pew pew at sea. But perhaps the biggest opportunity underway is the US bid for the Hellenic Navy Modernisation. The company’s Jon Rambeau tells us more.
Berenice Healey: What is your role in integrated warfare systems and sensors?
John Rambeau: I lead a group that mainly does four things; ship systems delivery – the work we do on the Littoral Combat Ship or the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant for Saudi Arabia. We do the combat system; the biggest piece there is the Aegis combat system we provide the US Navy and international navies.
We do radar systems; that’s naval radars, ground-based radars, missile defence radars for the Missile Defence Agency, and a little bit of work on airborne radars. The fourth is a new exciting area around directed energy or laser weapon systems, and that’s more right now prototyping activities that we hope will lead to larger projects over time.
Greece is undertaking its Hellenic Navy Modernisation programme. What is Lockheed Martin’s role in the US bid?
We’re by far the largest part of the US foreign military sale offer to the competition. Our portion of that is going to be managing the upgrades for their existing Neko class frigates and the construction of four new frigates, which we’ve called the Hellenic Future Frigate or HF2.
The US Navy is also offering three years of comprehensive support for each of the new ships after they’ve delivered them, and we’ll be some part of that.
There’s also what’s known as the interim solution, and this is a request from Greece to have some ships provided by this successful country that would be a gap-filler for them until the new capability arrives.
What’s the latest on the Spy 7 next-generation radar technology?
We’re getting near the end of the delivery of the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) for the Missile Defence Agency in Alaska, which has been going quite well.
The LRDR is made up of shoebox-size building blocks that you can build into as large an array as you like. What’s nice about that technology is that you can configure it to pretty much any size aperture that you like depending on the application. We’ve taken that technology and applied it to other applications and received the designation of Spy 7.
We’ve had some success with Spain and Canada. Most interestingly, in Japan we started out with a land-based configuration and now it’s moved to a sea-based application. We’ve had some success in international markets, and each one of those is slightly different but all built on that same common backbone of technology.
What’s the latest with the Aegis Combat System?
We have over 250 US naval vessels deployed with Aegis and over 50 in international fleets. We continue to work in partnership with both the US Navy and the Missile Defence Agency providing air and missile defence capabilities. It’s a strong three-way partnership.
The big focus we’ve got now is we’re working on a new release which is called Baseline 10. We’re also in the process of working to transition the way we deliver capability.
We’re familiar with DevSecOps for delivering smaller increments of capability on a more frequent basis, so we’re undergoing a big transformation in that regard and we’re working very hard with the US Navy to go on that journey together.
What directed energy, or laser, weapons projects are you working on?
There are two really exciting projects, one for the US Navy one for the US Army. The one for the US Navy is called HELIOS [high-energy laser with integrated optical-dazzler and surveillance] and that has moved from the factory into a test environment and we’re starting to go through some serious testing.
We had a bit of a delay in the availability of range time to do some of the testing and calibration of that, but we’ve worked through those issues now with the Navy and the other government agencies that were involved, and we’ve been able to start that testing process. As soon as we get that completed, we’ll be able to sell off the HELIOS system to the US Navy; that’s about a 60 kW laser.
What’s unique about it is it’s designed to integrate directly into a DDG [Arleigh Burke-class destroyer] and one of the US Navy ships is slated to go on is the USS Preble. We worked hard to integrate the laser weapons system into the Aegis combat system to build a control as part of the overall combat capability on the ship. This is very different to a lot of the other programmes that are strictly more prototype in nature; it’s made to be an integrated piece of combat capability for the ship.
Now, it’s 60 kW and so the conversation has been how do you scale that capability up? We designed it to go to about double, about 120 kW, with very minimal design, just adding additional what we call fibre laser modules into that system. To go higher than 120 we’d have to make some more substantial design changes.
The one for the Army is a much larger system; 300 kW. We’re working with Lieutenant General Thurgood, director of rapid capabilities at the critical technologies office and he’s chartered to rapidly develop this 300kW as a mobile ground-based application. We’re building the laser capability as well as the beam director and deep beam control systems that align and make use of the laser.
We’re also partnering with a company called Dynetics, out of Huntsville, Alabama, which is working on the power and thermal systems to help us package it all together. We’re going to do an initial lab demonstration in 2022 and a field demonstration by 2024.
The theme of this year’s DSEI is multi-domain integration. How is Lockheed Martin working towards that?
Our company’s made a lot of progress in coming together across the corporation under the “One LM” policy. We made tremendous progress first under Marillyn Houston and now under Jim Taiclet, our new CEO, who is very focused on bringing us all together.
He’s also very focused on a vision for what he calls 21st-century warfighting. The premise is that warfare in the future will have to be conducted differently if we’re going to stay ahead of our adversaries. That means taking what’s already in our customers’ inventories and using them more effectively, making them more connected. How do you start to leverage all those assets as an integrated capability, how do you take advantage of commercial technologies?
Jim Taiclet spent time in the commercial telecom world and so he’s been a big proponent of engaging commercial firms across the US to be part of our future strategies. We’ve coined a concept within Lockheed Martin, which is 5G.mil. How do you leverage the emerging 5G capability that’s out there commercially and militarise it? How do you make it safe, secure and encrypted in a way that it can be leveraged as a military network to support that 21st-century warfighting concept?
We’ve been very involved in a lot of demonstration activity as military services have looked to start experimentation for the future. We participated in the recent Northern Edge, Talisman Sabre and Valiant Shield. We’ve tried to invest in experimentation, as a way to get ahead of where our customers were thinking they need to be in the future and help them to find a path to get there.